As the city works to finalized a comprehensive parking management plan, one group has come forward as strongly opposed to the return of paid parking in the near future.
At today’s Downtown Improvement District meeting, the board demonstrated that significant opposition exists to any form of paid parking. DID member Eileen Hampshire, a member of the city’s Parking Advisory Committee, reported on the work of the latter group to date. Hampshire said, at this point, it appeared likely that the city would revisit the idea of paid parking in some form. The other board members reacted by voting to recommend the city take no steps toward such a program until at least May 1, 2016.
The DID members gave a number of reasons for their opposition. Tom Mannausa worried that customers would go to forthcoming Mall at University Town Center rather than pay for parking, a concern Ron Soto and Mark Kauffman echoed. Kauffman said it was still too soon after the previous failure of paid parking to revisit such a program, and added that the lack of easy parking is just a sign of downtown’s success.
“You realize that no parking available downtown is a good thing,” Kauffman said. “Having people fight for a parking space is exciting.”
The Parking Advisory Committee has not yet finalized its recommendations for parking management, and any recommendations would have to be approved by the City Commission. Still, city Parking Manager Mark Lyons said that paid parking has worked in other communities, and there’s reason to believe that it would in Sarasota, too.
The goal would be more than just funding parking management — although with a $500,000 annual deficit in the city’s parking fund, that would be one benefit. Beyond that, Lyons said, paid parking would discourage constant circulation as people search for parking places, providing a higher level of service for customers while decreasing congestion and carbon emissions.
Despite the resistance of the Downtown Improvement District, Lyons believes paid parking could have the opposite effect if implemented properly.
“Given time, a paid parking system will prove its worth,” Lyons said. “It integrates in a way that makes it easier to come downtown.”
For more information on the city’s parking management plan, pick up a copy of Thursday’s Sarasota Observer.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].